Email marketing is one of the best ways to make money in your eCommerce business but there is a method to the madness. After working with so many eCommerce entrepreneurs on their email marketing I see a lot of the same mistakes or missteps and today we’re going to dive into the Top 10 mistakes and how to do it better.
Today we’re talking about email with a bit of a different spin—we’re focusing on the top 10 mistakes you might be making in your email marketing.
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Mistake #1: You don’t have a welcome series, or it isn’t designed to make them buy.
When a potential customer first signs up on your website to receive your emails, how are you welcoming them into your world?
A welcome series should do three things:
- Set expectations
- Nurture them along their journey
- Get them to make their first purchase as quickly as possible.
What makes a great welcome series?
First thing is to have at least 5-7 emails in your series, depending on what content you need to include. How exactly it lays out is going to depend on your business, but some of these items will need a dedicated email and others will just be peppered in as part of each email design.
Offer a discount
Yep, I said it. Don’t be afraid of offering discounts on their first purchase. At this stage in the eCommerce game people expect it and it’s a great reason to get them on your email list.
Now, if you REALLY don’t want to give a discount, that’s fine—just know that you’re going to have to give them SOMETHING in exchange for their email. If you want some other ideas around this, check out episode 43 to go deeper into list building for eCommerce.
If you do go the discount route, make sure you’re putting an expiration date on it to add a sense of urgency. When deciding how long the discount is good for, think about how much thought needs to go into deciding on their purchase. If it’s clothing or a small investment, 7 days is good. Anything more technical or high-ticket, 14 days is Better.
And then make sure you’re sending a discount reminder when there are 24 -48 hours left on that discount.
Overcome your customers’ objections
Next up in the welcome series is to overcome your customer’s objections. Now you’re not necessarily going to have an email dedicated to this—you’ll want to pepper this throughout, but the idea is to know what would keep your potential customer from making a purchase and address those concerns.
You’ll also want to give them a way to contact you if they have questions about your products or your policies. The more information you can give them about this upfront, the better. A poor customer experience is the #1 reason companies lose customers.
A quite obvious but often overlooked piece of content for your welcome series is your story and why you do what you do. You want to write it in a way that lets them connect to you as a person, but that also lets them see how you and your product can help them and solve their problems.
You’ll also want to set expectations. Tell them what type of email they’re going to get from you and you can even tell them how often they can expect to hear from you if it makes sense. So for instance, if you send daily emails, tell them you send daily emails so they’re not surprised. If you only send monthly emails, I would also tell them that so they know they’re not missing anything since most eCommerce brands send more often than that.
Provide educational content
If you have blog posts or content related to your products that will help them on their path to purchase, include a few of those top posts in your emails. This content may serve multiple purposes like overcoming objections as I mentioned previously, or it could help them find the right product for them.
Mistake #2: You’re not using a preference center for your subscribers
A preference center is an opportunity for your subscribers to tell you what type of content they want to receive and how often they’d like to hear from you.
All subscribers are not created equal. When someone invites you into their inbox, it’s like they’re inviting you into their home. If they ask you to take your shoes off at the door, you would, right?
A successful email marketing program is all about the subscriber. And every email you send is a chance for them to unsubscribe, so it’s up to you to only send them emails they WANT to receive.
Your email service provider (MailChimp,
Some of the most basic are how often they want to hear from you, what type of content they want to receive, and anything else that is relevant to your business.
- Williams Sonoma asks what type of cook are you
- If you sell skincare products, you can ask if they want to receive tips and tricks related to skin care
- If you sell makeup, maybe they want to receive beauty tutorials.
- If you are a brick + mortar & online, do they want to hear about in-store events?
Take some time to brain-dump all the things you could talk about in your business and add it to the manage preferences form. You should even include promotions as an option; believe it or not, not everyone wants to receive them.
Mistake #3: You’re sending the same email to everyone on your list
Gone are the days of batch and blast emails, my friend. With the advances in technology and the change in digital marketing, customers are getting savvier and their expectations higher. Subscribers want to receive email that is personalized and relevant to them.
This sounds complicated, but with all the data your email service provider is collecting about your subscribers on a regular basis, it’s much easier to implement than it sounds.
This can be as simple as adding their name into the email when you greet them, or sending them an automated email based on their most recent purchase and saying thank you.
Your email service provider will have a dynamic placeholder you can insert into any email that will automatically populate with their first name. Make sure you have a fall-back option in case you don’t have their name.
Make it relevant
Just like those ads that follow you around the web after you browse a website, you can use this same re-marketing tactic for your emails.
If your email service provider can’t recommend products based on their history (switch platforms) then you can still accomplish this by grouping people Together based on the categories they purchase from.
If you sell men’s and women’s clothing, segment your customers based on those categories and only send to them what makes sense.
If you sell a product that usually needs a little more explanation to use successfully, or you have some training around it, set up an automatic email to send after they purchase that particular item.
Can you segment too much?
One caveat here, is that the above mentioned segmentation methods are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to segmentation and personalization. And I will say it is possible to segment too much. This is going to be so different based on your specific business (you can also book a strategy call with me if you want to dig into your particular business) but just know that if you have a really small list or not a lot of traffic, don’t worry too much about creating super granular segments.
Focus on some high-level things we talked about here and just focus on excluding people who have explicitly said they don’t want certain types of content vs. creating content for every segment of your list.
Mistake #4: You’re not resending your evergreen emails to people who didn’t open them the first time and your new subscribers
This is my favorite mistake to rectify because it’s an easy way to generate revenue without having to do much work.
Some of the best eCommerce email marketing programs still only get a 20% open rate which means 80% of the people you send to will not see it.
Whether it wasn’t the right time or your subject line didn’t grab their attention, it doesn’t mean they won’t find value in the content inside.
If you have an email that isn’t time-sensitive (an evergreen email) bank those babies and send them out again to the people who didn’t open the first time and to any new subscribers. Just make sure you change the subject line!
One of my highest revenue generating emails is a Top 10 message that includes product recommendations generated by
Once you land on a great approach like this, considering adding it to your welcome series. You can put in a long delay, say 30 days or so to separate it from your initial discount email, and let it just keep working for you. When you’re using the built recommendations of your email service provider, all you have to do is come up with new and cool subject lines.
- Go back through your sent email campaigns and find the one that generated the most revenue that wasn’t a promotion or a sale.
- Create two segments. The first one will be of people who received the email, but didn’t open it. The second segment is subscribers who have joined your list since you originally sent that email.
- Now write a new subject line and pre-header and send it out!
- And then DM me on Instagram, I’m so curious how it goes!
Mistake #5: Always selling instead of providing value
You don’t have to SELL in every email you send to your subscribers. People aren’t going to want to buy from you every single week (unless maybe you’re the grocery store) and this is especially true if you have a small product assortment.
But, it is important that you keep your relationship with them fresh and you always want to be top of mind, so when they are ready to buy, they think of you first.
How do you provide value to your audience?
Add value with content that is complimentary to your products. Let’s use Williams Sonoma as an example. They can send information on recipes, kitchen hacks, how to care for their pots etc.
Check out episode 31 of the eCommerce Badassery podcast for more non-salesy emails ideas and sign up for my free resource library to get access to my content brainstorm worksheet which will help you identify topics to talk to your customers about.
Mistake #6: You’re sending emails to unengaged people
If your subscribers aren’t opening your emails, stop sending to them.
Look, I get it. You have a list of X number of people and you feel like if you stop sending to some of them, you’re missing an opportunity to make a sale. But let’s be honest, those people weren’t buying from you anyway.
If you continue to send your emails to people who don’t open them, you’re only going to hurt your chances of getting delivered to the inbox, even to those subscribers who DO open your emails.
It’s normal to lose subscribers over time, it’s just the nature of the game. So focus on serving your people well and have a system in place for weeding out those unengaged subscribers.
The kiss of death for deliverability (the percentage of your emails that get delivered to the inbox) is sending to people who haven’t opened an email in 6 months.
- Create a segment of people who have received at least 10 emails in the last 6 months. (The minimum number of emails you put is going to depend on how often you send them—the more often you send, the lower the threshold can be. Think about it, if you’re only sending one email per month, then your threshold should be 3 or 5.
- Once you identify that segment of people, start excluding them from your campaign emails.
- Once your overall email program is healthy and you’re consistently getting 20% open rates, you can create a break-up email series to send to those unengaged subscribers as a last-ditch effort to get their attention. You can also try slowly pulling them back in when you have something REALLY juicy to share, like a new product release or kick-ass promotion.
- If they still don’t open or engage after these epic emails, unsubscribe them.
Mistake #7: You’re sending too many emails, or not enough
Getting the perfect frequency will take time and testing. This depends a lot on the product you sell, how long between purchases, how often you have new items etc.
According to testing done by some email platforms, fewer emails—for instance, 6 per month, performs better than more—say, 12 per month.
I personally haven’t found this to be true necessarily, but like I said… you won’t know for sure until you test it.
On the flip side, if you’re only sending 1 email a month, or letting months go by with no emails, your subscribers may forget they even signed up in the first place and you’ll have a high percentage of unsubscribes when you do eventually send an email.
How many emails should you send?
If you’re not sure how many emails you should send, start with at least once per week, and then add in additional emails for important events like new product launches and sales. Of course, you’re going to want to send more emails around these specific types of events to hype people up, add urgency and use it as an opportunity to present the information from a few different angles. Remember, people need to see and hear things multiple times before it clicks or they take action on it.
Frequency should also be included on your manage preferences form. I usually will break it up into All the Emails, Weekly (Once or Twice a Week) and Monthly (Once or Twice a Month). Depending on how savvy you are with email or how much you have to say, yours might be 2-3 times per week or per month.
The wider your assortment and more often the typical purchasing frequency of your customer, the more emails you can send. So if you’re an apparel business with seasonal collections, a wide assortment and customers who shop with you every month, you can send multiple emails per week with no issue, vs. a one-product store that a customer only needs to purchase from every six months. In that case, I’d go bi-weekly or monthly just to stay top of mind with your customers and provide as much value as possible.
If you haven’t been consistent with your emails, now is a great time to start.
- Plan out the next 8 weeks of emails, at least one per week. If you have any sales coming up make sure to include reminder and last chance emails as all.
- Try and stick to the same day of the week that you see the most revenue.
- To help keep up with the frequency, set aside a day or a few hours to create all the emails ahead of time. Batching the same type of work has been proven to be more productive overall because your brain doesn’t have to switch gears.
If you struggle to create an email marketing calendar, listen to episode 44 of the podcast where I break this down for you.
Mistake #8: You’re not looking at the data to make educated decisions
Remember friend, data doesn’t lie. And it’s important in all aspects of your eCommerce business. It’s the way we get feedback from our customers without being able to talk to them face to face like we would in a brick + mortar store.
There are a number of important metrics you should be looking at and using to improve your email marketing program overtime.
The % of times your email was opened (this is not unique to the user, so if someone opens your email more than once, it will be counted multiple times.) Generally you want to aim for 20%.
What it means
This is generally related to your subject line, but can also be because of the day and time you sent it.
Like the time I sent an email just as the Game of Thrones series finale was starting to air. Generally, Sunday evenings were my best performing email, but this wasn’t any given Sunday.
This is the % of people who clicked your email based on who it was sent to. This is not to be confused with click-through rate, which is the percentage of people who clicked the email based on the # of people who opened it. Which metric you see is going to depend on your email service provider. Just know that you want to aim for a 3-4% click rate and a 12-14% click-through rate.
What it means
Either the content itself wasn’t what they expected to see after reading your subject line, or your call to action copy, the words you used on your buttons, weren’t enticing enough.
This the % of people who unsubscribed from your emails. You want to be below .3% here.
What it means
They didn’t find your emails valuable or relevant to them anymore. Sure, it could be because you sent too many, or not enough, and they forgot who you were, but ultimately that all means the same thing—they didn’t find value. Otherwise, they would have stayed.
Don’t get too worried about unsubscribes. They’re doing you a favor! Instead of just leaving your emails unopened they’re telling you, hey I’m not into this anymore. And it’s keeping your list clean and relevant and ultimately cheaper 🙂
This is NOT the # of emails that landed in spam, it’s the % of people who reported your email as spam. You want this number to be no higher than .08%
What it means
Either they didn’t sign up for your email list, didn’t remember doing it, or you didn’t deliver what they were expecting; or you didn’t set their expectations.
There may be a person here or there that reports you as spam in place of unsubscribing, but it’s unlikely. It’s more likely they didn’t think they signed up.
First off, make sure you’re only sending emails to people who expressly opted-in, this is the law, but you may also want to put a little note in your footer that says you’re receiving this email because you signed up on our website, at an event, or through a giveaway. Something to just remind them they signed up, which will hopefully prompt them to unsubscribe vs. reporting you as spam.
How much money is each email generating? Email should have a monetary ROI, a pretty good one at that too. Naturally, promotional emails will generate revenue, but your other campaigns should generate revenue too.
Whenever you find a non-promotional email that generates revenue, keep using it in your program.
Mistake #9: You’re not testing on a regular basis
You should regularly test everything from your subject lines and content inside the email, to your sending days and times. Email marketing, even your automations are only set it and forget it-ish. Email is a living, breathing thing. You’re constantly getting more data to work with as more and more people receive and respond to your emails.
Most email platforms will include functionality called A/B testing that allows you to create different variations of your email in one shot.
When testing, it’s important to ONLY test ONE variable at a time, otherwise you won’t know what does or doesn’t work.
Most platforms will allow you to send to a subset of your list with both variations and then send the “winner” to the remaining list. But a few hours to determine the winner isn’t really long enough. Instead, send the emails as a 50/50 split and determine the winner once it’s over.
Test subject lines
This is an easy test to start with. Does your customer respond to clear and direct language, or something wittier? When you’re doing your testing, make sure the subject lines are different enough from one another to make it a valid test.
A: 20% off Your Entire Purchase This Weekend
B: Heat Up Your Summer With This HOT Sale!
Test content and design
You can also test the content inside the email. You can compare the overall design, placement of text, call to action language, colors of buttons etc. But make sure you’re only testing ONE variable at a time.
If you want to test your design, do one version with a white background and one with a colored background. Or, keep everything the same and just change your button from a SHOP NOW to a LEARN MORE.
Test the time of day
If you’re unable to test this automatically with your email service provider, you can do it by creating two segments of your most engaged people.
Then, send the same email on the same day at two different times. Start with one first thing in the morning, say 6am, and the second in the evening, at 6pm.
When you’re looking at the data, compare all the metrics: open, click, revenue. And see which one performs best.
If you notice that one time has a slightly lower open rate (1-2% less) but a significant increase in revenue, go with the time that gave you more revenue.
Test the day of week
Remember when I mentioned earlier that Sunday evenings were the best time for me to send an email. The only reason I know that is because I tested all the days!
This should only be done with a non-time sensitive email. Similarly to testing time of day, you’ll also want to split your most engaged subscribers and send them the same email, just on different days.
When you’re looking at the data, you’ll want to analyze it the same way you did for testing the time of day as well.
Test and test and test again
All the metrics matter, but if you see one drives more revenue while the others stay relatively the same, move forward with the day that drove the most revenue.
Testing is not a one and done process. Once you find a winner for a particular test, you’ll want to test that winner against another hypothesis. So if you’ve determined that Tuesdays at 6pm is when you should send an email, now test that day against another day, but at the same time. If the second day performs better, now you can test that same day but at 6am.
Mistake #10: You’re emotionally attached to your number of subscribers
It is one that we ALL struggle with, and it’s so easy to get stuck on this vanity metric. Having a big list is worth NOTHING if they don’t engage or buy from you.
Just like the number of followers you have on your social channels, the number of email subscribers means nothing, it’s just a vanity metric. It’s better to have a small list of super-engaged people than it is to have a large list of people who don’t open or buy from your emails.
Remove engaged followers
Remember: Most email service providers are charging you based on how many people are on your list. Why invest in a subscriber if they’re not going to invest in you?
We talked about those people who haven’t opened in the last 6 months. After you do your last-ditch effort win back or break up series, just unsubscribe them.
I know it feels shitty to get rid of them, but your time is better spent serving those people who are engaging the best you can and getting new email subscribers.
Churn is natural in your email list and depending on your product, some businesses will churn faster than others. For instance, if you sell a baby product, your customer is eventually not going to need that product anymore and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything about you or your business. It just means there are other people out there that need what you have and you’re gonna want to go out there and find them.
Let’s recap these mistakes real quick
I know this was a long episode but let this be one of those episodes that you come back to when you need a little kick in the ass about your email marketing or a refresher.
So here’s the top 10 mistakes you’re probably making with your email marketing:
- You don’t have a welcome series, or it isn’t designed to make them buy
- You’re not using a preference center for your subscribers
- You’re sending the same email to everyone on your list
- You’re not re-sending evergreen (non-time-sensitive) campaigns
- You’re always selling instead vs. providing value
- You’re sending emails to unengaged people.
- You’re sending too many emails, or not enough.
- You’re not looking at the data to make educated decisions.
- You’re not testing on a regular basis.
- You’re stuck on the size of your list and the vanity metric.
Now, here’s your next step. Take a screenshot of you listening to this episode, tag me in your Instagram story @ecommercebadassery, and tell me what your #1 takeaway from today’s episode was. I can’t wait to hear what you think.